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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From San Francisco Chronicle
SF Chronicle: Classic. One of the most thrilling chapters in San Francisco Ballet's history is back in all its glory. Lar Lubovitch's "Othello," with a commissioned score by Academy Award winner Eliot Goldenthal, will be broadcast tonight on PBS' Great Performances and has just been released on DVD by Kultur. Although there is no substitute for witnessing dance live in...
Published on June 18, 2003

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Most of the Cast is Wonderful, Iago Severely Disappoints
Let me start out by saying, this review is not about the actual product DVD, as it is visually fine and the sound is good. This review is about the actual performance and interpretation of the play itself.

I grant, I am not a theater critic, nor am I a Shakespeare expert. I have, however, performed in and seen many Shakespeare plays, including a few variations...
Published on April 4, 2011 by RCPadrick


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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From San Francisco Chronicle, June 18, 2003
By A Customer
SF Chronicle: Classic. One of the most thrilling chapters in San Francisco Ballet's history is back in all its glory. Lar Lubovitch's "Othello," with a commissioned score by Academy Award winner Eliot Goldenthal, will be broadcast tonight on PBS' Great Performances and has just been released on DVD by Kultur. Although there is no substitute for witnessing dance live in the theater, this "Othello," directed for television by Matthew Diamond, is more than a souvenir of a great performance. It is a gripping, entertaining home-viewing experience. It stars Desmond Richardson, who created the title role in New York for American Ballet Theatre. San Francisco's Yuan Yuan Tan dances Desdemona, perhaps her greatest role. Parrish Maynard, an Iago in both companies, returns alongside a supporting cast that includes Katita Waldo as Emilia, Gonzalo Garcia as Cassio and Lorena Feijoo as the whore Bianca. Emil de Cou conducts the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in a performance of Goldenthal's score that makes clear that "Othello" is a gift to American music as well as American dance. Taped live at the War Memorial Opera House in March 2002, "Othello" is a co- production by ABT, San Francisco Ballet and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. Premiered by ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1997, "Othello" was revised slightly by Lubovitch and Goldenthal for the 1998 West Coast premiere in San Francisco. The piece grows more fascinating with every cast and every viewing. Turning the Bard's words into movement is a daunting task, and Lubovitch succeeds spectacularly: His "Othello" joins the select company of great Shakespearean dances that includes John Cranko's and Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet," Cranko's "The Taming of the Shrew" and Jose Limon's "The Moor's Pavane." "Othello" is traditional in aiming to enrich the canon rather than reject it. But it is also a radical ballet, both in its negation of fashionable Balanchinean abstraction and in its unembarrassed embrace of the theatrical values of modern dance. Lubovitch's choreography is free of jargon, innocent of the slang of dance that modern dancemakers from Mark Morris to Twyla Tharp might have been tempted to use in trying to make the story contemporary. Lubovitch often simply suggests the plot and assumes that the details are known to the audience, and he plays on that knowledge to dwell on the profounder themes and vivid characters at the heart of Shakespeare's play. Inspired at every step by Goldenthal's unsettling music, Lubovitch achieves archetypal ideals. He explores the universal themes of Shakespeare's tragedy with intensity and clarity, in movement that seems drenched in dramatic truth. The truth is in the dancing. And San Francisco Ballet, from corps to principals, succeeds. Richardson -- who is on Broadway in the Burt Bacharach review "What the World Needs Now" -- is not as winning as San Francisco Ballet's Yuri Possokhov in the title role. But he is still an Othello of tragic stature, an outsider as much to the society around him as to the possibility of happiness. Given the most complex arm phrasing and athletic bravura turns, Richardson seems possessed by the unstoppable momentum of Lubovitch's choreography. Tan's Desdemona is lovely and subtle, daringly so. Embodying the very image of innocence about to be brutalized, she draws on her considerable musicality and virtuosity to bring to life the tragic futility of Desdemona's emotions. The childlike glee of Tan's duets with Garcia's Cassio, the earthy sensuality of Feijoo's seductive tarantella and even the terrifying ebb and flow of the Act 2 seaside ensemble all come off extremely well on the small screen. Only George Tsypin's icy Plexiglas sets suffer in the transition from stage to television -- much as they lost some of their sheer monumentality in their voyage from the Met to the War Memorial. Still, not unlike the dancers, the stage pictures of "Othello" gain a new dimension in front of the camera: an intimacy not easily shared in a large theater. In close-ups such as the desperation in Richardson's mad scenes in the theater, Lubovitch's "Othello" rings true. -- Octavio Roca
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True to the Original, May 11, 2008
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
Theater in Shakespeare's time was popular entertainment for the masses and not highbrow art. The Globe Theatre in London continues that tradition with this production of Othello. In contrast to productions of Othello in which the actors are self-consciously striving to be "deep", the actors here are playing for the crowd.

By no means does this make the quality of the performance suffer. Eamonn Walker brings a brooding physical presence to the stage as Othello. Zoe Tapper is amazing as Desdemona - beautiful and with a clear voice that makes her lines easy to follow. It is Tim McInnerny as Iago who rules the stage, though - the audience is alternately laughing at him as he manipulates the hapless Rodrigo, and then is horrified as he manipulates Othello.

Add to this the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London, and you have a winning combination. You need not be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy this production - just a human being.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Most of the Cast is Wonderful, Iago Severely Disappoints, April 4, 2011
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
Let me start out by saying, this review is not about the actual product DVD, as it is visually fine and the sound is good. This review is about the actual performance and interpretation of the play itself.

I grant, I am not a theater critic, nor am I a Shakespeare expert. I have, however, performed in and seen many Shakespeare plays, including a few variations of Othello, so I speak with a bit of experience. Here goes:

Eamonn Walker as Othello is mesmerizing. He is powerful, authoritative, and clearly the character closest to classical interpretation. The scene where he kills Desdemona is emotional and superbly performed by both actors, and while the actual killing is a new interpretation, it is a bold choice and, I believe, superbly done.

Zoe Tapper's Desdemona is very good, although her voice is such a pitch that it distracts at times. She brings an innocence and dignity to the role that is often tough to find. I enjoyed her performance. The same can be said for many of the secondary characters, including Cassio, Brabantio, Montano, Emilia, and Bianca. While choosing black actors for Emilia and Bianca is a bit strange at first (given the racial overtones of the show), both actresses turn in solid and beautiful performances.

Now comes the reason I give only three stars: Iago. Tim McInnerny makes Shakespeare's greatest and most complex villain forgettable and without depth. He speeds through his lines with a raspy half-yell that rarely changes tone. Whether he is giving an aside to the audience or screaming to the balcony at Brabantio, the same level and energy comes forth. I was completely and thoroughly disappointed. At no point did I feel anything for Iago, much less the sheer menace and brilliance with which he is written. Iago -- the character -- is a brilliant, controlled puppeteer. McInnerny portrayed him as a loud, obnoxious braggart who I found not believable as a master manipulator. He zips through his monologues with speed and little emotion (except for anger), leaving me to wonder not only what he said, but whether even he has any idea as to what he is truly saying.

He had no control over himself, much less did I believe he could control anyone else. I could not have been more disappointed.

If you want a truly menacing and deep Iago, see Kenneth Branagh or Ian McKellen. McInnerny's Iago will make you hate the character for all the wrong reasons.

On a final note, Rodrigo (played by Sam Crane) was patently shallow and unbelievable. I have seen Crane in other productions, and he is a fine actor, but I believe the direction in this production forced him to play Rodrigo in a way that made him near unwatchable.

If it seems like I beat up on McInnerny a lot, it's only because the entire premise of the play hinges on the audience's ability to believe Iago can cause so much havoc merely through slight manipulation. His portrayal left me (and the entire acting crew I watched it with) wondering how anyone can be duped by such a ridiculous caricature.

My guess is the blame lies partly on the director, Wilson Milam, who tells us in the bonus feature that he tried to turn the TRAGEDY of Othello into a comedy. He fails... miserably. Even with such great acting as Walker, Tapper, et al., the woes outweigh the wins.

If you want a different take on Othello, then this is a good buy. If you are seeing Othello for the first time and want to truly understand the show as it was intended by The Bard, I would advise another version of the show.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a flawless production, but a strong one, May 22, 2009
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
If you've never seen a production at the Globe, this DVD is worth the price just for the chance to see this unique playing space in action. The audience interaction is wonderful, and the gathering darkness reinforces the tone and mood of the final scenes in ways that I hadn't anticipated. It's easy for modern-day readers to forget that Shakespeare wrote his plays with outdoor performance in mind, and that early modern audiences were only inches from the actors, and this production makes inventive use of these staging conditions. The play is performed with very few cuts -- it's a rare chance to see often-cut material like the Clown scenes, and this makes it an excellent version to use in the classroom.

Unfortunately, Tim McInnerney's Iago is not wholly convincing, especially in his soliloquys and his big scene with Othello (3.3). While his scenes with Roderigo are entertaining, he comes across as too angry throughout this production, and it's hard to see why Othello and the other characters trust him. I found it difficult to imagine an Iago with so little control over his own emotions as a plausible manipulator. Zoe Tapper's Desdemona, on the other hand, is pitch-perfect. She's too often played as a shrinking violet, but Desdemona is the descendant of Shakespeare's earlier comic heroines like Rosalind and Beatrice. Tapper's Desdemona is genuinely innocent, and bewildered at the change in Othello's behavior, but at the same time, she's a bold young woman who defies her father to marry for love, banters with Iago, and pleads Cassio's case at the risk of further antagonizing her husband. Her final scene with Emilia and her murder work particularly well, but so do her earlier scenes; her affection for Walker's Othello is real and tangible, and this production feels like a comedy that has missed its way.

I enjoyed this video very much, and I look forward to sharing it with my students. I hope there will be more Globe performances released on video in the future.
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33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Tragedy of Othello Undermined By Jigs and Clowns, Or What Did Shakespeare Know?, March 31, 2008
By 
Stanley H. Nemeth (Garden Grove, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
This production may rightly be praised for its eye-opening uses of the thrust stage of the "restored" Shakespearean Globe Theater. Not only are we spared unnecessarily elaborate sets and flamboyant costumes, but the action surprisingly is not set, say, on the far side of the moon, in the fashion nowadays of "innovative" stage directors who themselves often sorely need a director. The Globe Theater set-up happily allows the action and the language of a play to emerge clearly and naturally as its principal stars. Further, almost all members of the assembled cast speak their lines with exemplary intelligibility (Kudos to Patsy Rodenburg, the diction coach). A partial exception, however, is the Desdemona, the beautiful but finally cloying Zoe Tapper, whose vocal prowess ranges from the high-pitched strident to the high-pitched sorely beset, losing communication of any interiority of character as a consequence. Her voice in future stage roles would probably benefit, as did Vivien Leigh's under the tutelage of Laurence Olivier, by being lowered at least half, if not a whole octave.

The various scenes of this tragedy, as indicated, flow with a wonderful momentum, reproducing as they do the probable minimalism of the original seventeenth-century production. Also, the use of multiracial casting works to dispel the notion that the play is more about racial prejudice than about an unusual but wholly commendable case of intermarriage meant to circumvent any tribalist notions of human nature the audience may hold. But casting both Emilia and Bianca as black women whose race is never commented on raises as many problems as it solves. For one thing, it renders Brabantio's surprising disgust at his daughter's marriage to the Moor wholly unntelligible and throws much else in the play out of whack, since mixed marriages or relationships seem the order of the day, not the singular triumph of Desdemona, who "saw Othello's visage in his mind."

Despite whatever strengths mentioned, remaining flaws in this production quickly and disastrously overwhelm its merits. In my view, the philistine director Wilson Milam is the principal problem. His real wish, as his commentary indicates, is to present "Othello, the Comedy," since it hasn't been done before. The heart of his production, accordingly, is the Iago-Roderigo relationship, which benighted Shakespeare had thought, at best, a sidebar to the pity and terror of the tragedy of the uxorious Moor. Comedy is clearly director Milam's interest. Nothing else meaningful is underlined in the swift passage of scenes. The play's central themes of diverse responses to loss and the nature of patience in affliction hardly emerge to lend meaning and beauty to the action, thus rendering the great tragedy just an interesting, if pointless, piece of viciousness. What the director emphasizes instead is tomfoolery. The clowns speak more than has been written down for them (pace Hamlet), and impertinent jigs needed to keep a Polonius awake are inserted, too (again, pace Hamlet). The actor playing Iago is unfortunately allowed to wrench the play even further out of proportion. The laughter which rightly greets his manipulation of the hapless Roderigo inappropriately raises its head in scenes where we're clearly meant to sympathize wholly with the noble and anguished Othello and Desdemona, not laugh along with Iago. A.C.Bradley famously observed that "the genius of Shakespeare in creating Iago is that we, the audience, never lose sympathy with Othello and Desdemona." But what did Shakespeare know? Director Milam crudely upsets this brilliant balance.

In truth, the only scene which suggests any tragic pain and horror is the closing one, and by then it's too late for it to make much of an effect on the also shockingly barbaric, inappropriately giggling Globe audience. Moreover, and for the record, even this final scene, which mostly works, isn't free of a glaring directorial miscalculation. When Desdemona discovers that Othello really intends to kill her, she leaps off her bed, banging on the locked bedroom door and screaming for her own rescue in the manner of a B-movie gun moll about to be bumped off. Her behavior here is hardly of a piece with her beautiful final response moments later to the question of who committed such violence upon her person, "Nobody. I myself." In conclusion, the actors and the tragedy itself deserved a director (and perhaps an audience, too) more willing to confront the text's shocking power and pain straight on.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!, January 17, 2004
By 
Kilan (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I watched this on broadcast TV, and was absolutely blown away. The choreography is amazing, as are the dancers - Yuan Yuan Tan and Desmond Richardson, who created the role of Othello, especially stood out. The ocean ensemble in Act 2 was incredible as well. One thing I have to say though - if you don't know the story already, you won't be able to grasp it from the performance (although it is just as enjoyable). I can't wait to see this performed at the War Memorial!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Addition to the Othello Collection, August 19, 2008
This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
I probably have more reviews relating to the Bard's play Othello than any other customers! For some reason, I am always drawn to different versions of one of Shakespeare's most universal and comprehensible plays. This Globe Theater production is truly excellent to use in an English class. Though the set is primitive, the performances more than compensate in this stellar version. If you are looking for a lot of spectacle and an elaborate set, this film is not for you.
Othello is the story of a prestigious Moorish general who is deceived into believing that his wife is having an affair by a cunning ensign. (See my review of the Archangel Audio version for a fuller description of the story).
The live setting of the production, complete with audience members, makes this film truly delightful.
The cast is superb! Eamonn Walker, (who portrayed a modern Othello on a PBS Masterpiece Theater production), proves that he is capable of mastering Shakespeare's vibrant poetry. He truly captures Othello's love for his wife, Desdemona, and portrays a confused an vulnerable man who descends further into madness with every poisonous insinuation. His portrayal is graceful and terrifying as he exudes a brooding presence. Tim McInnerny is truly frightening as the deceptive ensign Iago. He brings a boisterous confidence to the role that makes the audience simultaneously loathe and admire him. His feigned concern for others is clearly shown as is his true nature revealed in Soliloquies where he smirks and laughs conspiratorially at the audience so that we know his true intentions. McKinnerny adds comedy to this role in an interesting way. He obviously has a wonderful time. Zoe Tapper brings out the vulnerability yet also the strength of Desdemona, and Lorraine Burgess is superb as Emilia. Her speech to Desdemona is wonderfully rendered.
This film should be watched not only by Shakespeare aficionados, but also by those who want to witness a truly excellent theatrical experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Othello Like No Other, May 11, 2012
By 
Lady P (Riverside, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
I saw the production at the Globe. As an actor, director and theatre teacher, I have been involved with several productions of Othello. I have read the play countless times and attended more than 20 other productions.
Sitting in the audience at the Globe, it was as though I had never experienced this play. Each scene brought a new revelation. It was vibrant, fresh -- and real! Yes, there was humor -- quite a lot of it -- all text-based. I found that the humor made the pathos of the end all the more disturbing. I actually discovered myself thinking, "He's not going to kill her. He loves her too much to kill her." I have played Desdemona, and yet I had hope! Once I had sufficiently recovered from the impact of this scene, I glanced around me, somewhat embarrassed by my wet face and clenched hands. Believe me, I found few dry eyes, and none which were unaffected.
I have used this DVD in my high school class and have been amazed at my students' reaction to it. It is the only Shakespeare I have ever shown which has been met with rapt attention and silence almost all the way through. Many wanted to know where to get their own copy. WOW!
An amazing production based upon the First Folio text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So great for the classroom!, December 18, 2011
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
As a high school English teacher I found this DVD to be a wonderful teaching tool. Telling the kids how Shakespearean plays are staged does not make the same impact as actually seeing it--not to mention it improves comprehension when they see/hear the play (especially on the Globe stage) instead of just reading it off the paper.

Having said that... this play is great for nerds like me, but if you're looking for Hollywood fluff for entertainment value, look elsewhere (I recommend the Lawrence Fishborne version). This is the whole play and nothing but the play.

There are other reviews who criticized the acting/specific actors--to them I say this is a wonderful SHAKESPEAREAN performance, in all its pomp and circumstance; overacting comes with the territory.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great production that needed more special features, June 10, 2012
By 
Cyn (Beautiful downtown Burbank) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Othello (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Production) (DVD)
Eamonn Walker is a magnificent Othello. Powerfully built with the strong, masculine presence that the character of Othello requires, Walker also has a beautifully emotive face, and eyes that give away so much of the character's heart. Really, the best Othello I've seen.

Other reviewers have problems with things that did not bother me at all - When Iago is not the center of the action, McInnerny will sometimes give a dull, slack-jawed look. My interpretation of this is that any time Iago speaks, any time a character looks at him, he is performing. But this face - the dull, empty, calculating face - is his true one. It's an interesting choice, I think. Some reviewers complained that the director had turned the play into a comedy, but Shakespeare's work always contains comedic elements, comedy or no. It's just the way he wrote, and is a technique still used by filmmakers and playwrights today - you build tension, then you break tension (which is where the comedy comes in), so that you can build it again. The lines are Shakespeare's, this is just a different interpretation than we've previously seen, and a successful one, I think.

Some things I did have a problem with - the actress who plays Desdemona makes one terrible misstep early in the production (a long slow look around the room). These moments of really bad acting (or directing, although none of us can tell whose fault it is) serve to remind the audience - this is not Desdemona, this is a woman who is being paid to pretend she's Desdemona for a couple hours, and then she'll go home and put on her yoga pants and have some tea. Not a great way to suck your audience into a story. She otherwise gave a lovely and delightful performance, but it took a little while to recover from that initial bobble.

And the biggest problem - and I feel like such a jerk for saying this - the two black actresses. It's not about them, it's about the story. All choices the director makes should be to serve the story. These two ladies were both really good actors, and I would love to see them in something else, but these roles need to be filled by white actors, not black. If there are other mixed-race marriages in this play, then why is it such a big deal when Othello and Desdemona marry? If there are other black characters in this city, then why is Othello himself considered such an exotic character? To complain about these lovely and talented women is not to make a racist statement. It's to complain that the story was not served.

All this leads to my request for more special features. In the brief "documentary," the director talks about what he wanted in doing the production, and he talks about how some of the stars were cast, and... that's it. I wanted to know more about Eamonn Walker, to fulfill my slight movie star crush, but mostly I wanted to know why he chose the two black lady actors - what his intention was in making that decision. Alas. Alackaday.
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